2016 was a year of great movies across various genres, with many films receiving critical acclaim and commercial success. From the emotionally powerful dramas to the action-packed superhero movies, there was something for everyone in 2016.
Some of the best movies of 2016 included “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age drama directed by Barry Jenkins, “La La Land,” a musical romantic-comedy directed by Damien Chazelle, and “Manchester by the Sea,” a family drama directed by Kenneth Lonergan.
These movies, along with others such as “Arrival,” “Hell or High Water,” and “Hacksaw Ridge,” were widely praised for their direction, performances, and storytelling.
2016 also saw the release of several highly anticipated superhero movies, such as “Captain America: Civil War,” “Deadpool,” and “Doctor Strange,” which were both critically acclaimed and commercially successful.
Best 2016 Movies
Overall, 2016 was a strong year for movies, with a diverse range of films that appealed to different audiences and showcased the talents of some of the industry’s best directors, actors, and writers.
1. Toni Erdmann (2016)
“Toni Erdmann” is a German-Austrian comedy-drama film directed by Maren Ade, released in 2016. The film stars Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek in lead roles.
The story of the film follows a father named Winfried (played by Peter Simonischek) who tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter Ines (played by Sandra Hüller) by posing as a life coach named Toni Erdmann.
Winfried’s eccentric behavior and pranks create chaos and embarrassment for Ines in her professional and personal life.
“Toni Erdmann” was praised for its direction, performances, and its blend of comedy and drama. The film was noted for its exploration of themes such as family, loneliness, and the challenges of modern corporate culture.
The film received several nominations and awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The film was also a commercial success, grossing over $11 million worldwide.
2. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Manchester by the Sea is a drama film released in 2016, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges.
The film tells the story of Lee Chandler, played by Affleck, a janitor who returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts after the death of his brother to take care of his teenage nephew.
As Lee struggles with his own personal demons, including a tragic past that led to the dissolution of his marriage and estrangement from his ex-wife Randi, played by Williams, he must navigate the challenges of becoming a father figure to his nephew.
Manchester by the Sea received critical acclaim, particularly for its performances and Lonergan’s screenplay and direction.
Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lee Chandler, while the film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Williams.
The film was a box office success, grossing over $79 million worldwide against a budget of $8.5 million. It was also nominated for numerous other awards, including Golden Globe Awards and BAFTA Awards.
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3. Aquarius (I) (2016)
“Aquarius” is a 2016 Brazilian-French drama film directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho.
The film stars Sonia Braga as Clara, a retired music critic and widow who refuses to leave her apartment in the seaside Aquarius building, despite pressure from developers who want to buy out the residents and demolish the building.
The film explores themes of aging, gentrification, and political corruption, and was praised for its nuanced portrayal of its protagonist, as well as its commentary on social and political issues in Brazil.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and received critical acclaim, with many critics singling out Sonia Braga’s performance as a standout.
However, the film was also controversial due to its political commentary and the director’s open criticism of the Brazilian government, leading to protests and walkouts at its screenings in Brazil.
Overall, “Aquarius” was a critical success and is considered one of the best Brazilian films of the 2010s.
4. All These Sleepless Nights (2016)
“All These Sleepless Nights” is a 2016 Polish documentary-drama film directed by Michał Marczak. The film follows two young men, Kris and Michal, as they navigate the hedonistic nightlife of Warsaw and explore their own sense of self and identity.
The film received positive reviews for its innovative blend of documentary and fictional storytelling, as well as its stunning cinematography and immersive soundtrack. It won the Best Director award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016.
“All These Sleepless Nights” was a box office success in Poland, grossing over $500,000 on a budget of $100,000. The film is praised for its unique and poetic portrayal of youth culture and the search for meaning and connection in the modern world.
5. Moonlight (I) (2016)
“Moonlight” is a 2016 coming-of-age drama film directed by Barry Jenkins and based on the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney.
The film tells the story of Chiron, a young Black man growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood, and explores his experiences with identity, sexuality, and relationships.
The film is divided into three acts, each depicting a different stage in Chiron’s life: as a child (played by Alex Hibbert), a teenager (played by Ashton Sanders), and an adult (played by Trevante Rhodes).
The film also features outstanding performances from Mahershala Ali as a father figure to Chiron, and Naomie Harris as his drug-addicted mother.
“Moonlight” was critically acclaimed for its raw and emotional portrayal of Black masculinity, as well as its innovative storytelling and stunning cinematography.
The film won several awards, including Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards, making it the first film with an all-Black cast and the first LGBTQ-related film to win the top prize.
“Moonlight” has been hailed as a modern classic and an important film in the representation of Black and LGBTQ+ stories in mainstream cinema.
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6. Arrival (II) (2016)
Arrival is a 2016 science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on the 1998 short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.
The film stars Amy Adams as Louise Banks, a linguist who is recruited by the US military to help communicate with aliens who have landed on Earth.
As Louise begins to learn the aliens’ language, she starts to experience vivid flashbacks and begins to understand that her work with the aliens has a deeper significance than she could have ever imagined.
The film explores themes of language, communication, and the nature of time, and received critical acclaim for its thoughtful storytelling, visual effects, and performances.
Adams was particularly praised for her portrayal of Louise, and the film was nominated for several awards, including eight Academy Awards, winning one for Best Sound Editing.
Arrival was a box office success, grossing over $200 million worldwide on a budget of $47 million. The film has since gained a cult following and is considered one of the best science fiction films of the 2010s.
7. American Honey (2016)
American Honey is a coming-of-age drama film directed by Andrea Arnold and released in 2016. The movie stars Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, and Riley Keough.
The story follows Star, a teenage girl from a troubled background who joins a group of young people traveling across the American Midwest selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door.
As Star becomes more involved in the group’s lifestyle, she begins to develop romantic feelings for one of her co-workers, Jake, and experiences the joys and dangers of life on the road.
American Honey received critical acclaim for its direction, cinematography, and performances, particularly from newcomer Sasha Lane.
The film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for several other awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Keough’s performance.
8. Closet Monster (2015)
“Closet Monster” is a Canadian drama film directed by Stephen Dunn, released in 2015. The film stars Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, and Joanne Kelly in lead roles.
The story of the film follows Oscar Madly (played by Connor Jessup), a gay teenager who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality while dealing with a dysfunctional family and traumatic childhood memories.
Oscar develops a crush on a coworker named Wilder (played by Aliocha Schneider), and the two begin a secret relationship. Meanwhile, Oscar’s vivid imagination manifests as a talking hamster, which offers him advice and comfort.
“Closet Monster” was praised for its direction, performances, and its exploration of themes such as identity, sexuality, and trauma. The film was noted for its unique visual style and use of surreal elements to depict Oscar’s internal struggles.
The film received several nominations and awards, including the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was also a critical success, receiving positive reviews from critics.
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9. My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
My Life as a Zucchini is a Swiss-French stop-motion animated film released in 2016, directed by Claude Barras and based on the novel Autobiography of a Courgette by Gilles Paris. The film tells the story of a young boy named Zucchini, who is sent to a foster home after the death of his mother.
At the foster home, Zucchini befriends other children who have also suffered from neglect and abuse. Together, they navigate the challenges of growing up without families and find support in each other.
My Life as a Zucchini received critical acclaim for its emotional depth and realistic portrayal of childhood trauma. The film was praised for its delicate handling of difficult themes, such as loss, abandonment, and the resilience of the human spirit.
The film was a box office success, grossing over $12 million worldwide. It was also nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which it did not win, but it did win multiple awards at film festivals around the world.
10. I, Daniel Blake (2016)
“I, Daniel Blake” is a 2016 British-French drama film directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty. The film tells the story of a middle-aged carpenter named Daniel Blake who, after suffering a heart attack, is denied the disability benefits he needs to support himself.
As he struggles to navigate the complex and uncaring bureaucracy of the UK welfare system, he befriends a single mother named Katie who is also experiencing financial hardship.
The film stars Dave Johns as Daniel Blake and Hayley Squires as Katie. It was praised for its poignant and realistic portrayal of poverty and the failings of the welfare system, as well as its sensitive and humane depiction of the friendship between the two main characters.
“I, Daniel Blake” was a critical success, winning the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and receiving numerous other accolades, including a BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film.
The film’s social and political commentary sparked debate and discussion about the treatment of the working class and the role of the welfare state in modern society.
11. Perfect Strangers (2016)
“Perfect Strangers” is a 2016 Italian comedy-drama film directed by Paolo Genovese. The film follows a group of friends who gather for a dinner party and decide to play a game where they put their mobile phones on the table and share every message or phone call they receive.
The film features an ensemble cast including Giuseppe Battiston, Anna Foglietta, Marco Giallini, and Valerio Mastandrea. It received positive reviews for its sharp writing, clever premise, and strong performances.
“Perfect Strangers” was a box office success in Italy, grossing over €16 million on a budget of €1.4 million. It was also a critical success, winning numerous awards and nominations, including the David di Donatello Award for Best Film.
The film has since been remade in several other countries, including Spain, Greece, and Mexico, and has become a popular choice for international adaptations.
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12. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
“The Edge of Seventeen” is a 2016 coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig.
The film follows the story of Nadine (played by Hailee Steinfeld), a high school student who is struggling with the loss of her father and the complexities of teenage life.
Nadine’s only friend is Krista (played by Haley Lu Richardson), who starts dating Nadine’s popular older brother, Darian (played by Blake Jenner).
This sends Nadine into a spiral of insecurity and loneliness, leading her to seek solace in her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (played by Woody Harrelson).
The film was praised for its realistic and relatable portrayal of teenage angst, as well as its strong performances from the cast. Steinfeld’s performance as Nadine was particularly lauded, and the film also marked a breakthrough for Richardson and Jenner.
“The Edge of Seventeen” may not have been a huge box office success, but it has since gained a cult following and has been praised as one of the best coming-of-age films in recent years.
13. Little Men (2016)
Little Men is a 2016 drama film directed by Ira Sachs. The film follows Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz) and Tony Calvelli (Michael Barbieri), two teenage boys who become friends when Jake’s family moves into the Brooklyn apartment building owned by Tony’s mother.
As the boys’ friendship blossoms, a dispute arises between Jake’s parents and Tony’s mother over the rent for the dress shop that Tony’s family operates on the building’s ground floor. This leads to tension between the two families and threatens to tear apart the boys’ friendship.
The film explores themes of friendship, family, gentrification, and the complexities of adult relationships as seen through the eyes of children.
It received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances of the young actors and the film’s nuanced portrayal of its characters.
Little Men premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and was later released in theaters. Although it was not a box office success, the film has been praised for its emotional depth and authenticity, and has since gained a small but devoted following
14. Don’t Call Me Son (2016)
Don’t Call Me Son is a Brazilian drama film directed by Anna Muylaert and released in 2016. The movie stars Naomi Nero, Dani Nefussi, and Matheus Nachtergaele.
The film tells the story of Pierre, a rebellious and carefree teenager who lives with his single mother and younger brother in a working-class neighborhood in São Paulo.
When it is revealed that Pierre was actually kidnapped as a baby and raised by his current family, he is forced to confront his true identity and the complicated emotions that come with it.
As Pierre adjusts to his new family and lifestyle, he also grapples with issues of sexuality, gender, and belonging.
Don’t Call Me Son received positive reviews from critics, who praised the film’s exploration of identity and its performances, particularly from Nero in the lead role. The film won several awards, including the Teddy Award for Best LGBT-themed feature at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.
15. Like Crazy (2016)
“Like Crazy” is a romantic drama film directed by Drake Doremus, released in 2011. The film stars Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, and Jennifer Lawrence in lead roles.
The story of the film follows a British college student named Anna (played by Felicity Jones) who falls in love with an American classmate named Jacob (played by Anton Yelchin) during her studies in Los Angeles.
After Anna overstays her visa, the couple is forced into a long-distance relationship, which puts a strain on their love and challenges their commitment to each other.
“Like Crazy” was praised for its direction, performances, and its realistic portrayal of long-distance relationships.
The film was noted for its use of improvisation and naturalistic dialogue to capture the emotions and struggles of the characters.
The film received several nominations and awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was also a critical success, receiving positive reviews from critics.
16. Paterson (2016)
Paterson is a drama film released in 2016, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani. The film follows a week in the life of Paterson, a bus driver and aspiring poet who lives in Paterson, New Jersey.
Paterson’s daily routine involves driving his bus route, writing poetry during his breaks, and spending evenings with his wife Laura, who is an artist with a new project each day.
The film explores the beauty in the mundane aspects of everyday life and the relationship between creative expression and the working-class experience.
Paterson received critical acclaim for its understated performances and Jarmusch’s quiet and observant direction. The film was praised for its unique blend of humor and melancholy and its exploration of the creative process.
The film was a modest box office success, grossing over $10 million worldwide against a budget of $5 million. It was also nominated for numerous awards, including the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
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17. Being 17 (2016)
“Being 17” (French title: “Quand on a 17 ans”) is a 2016 French coming-of-age drama film directed by André Téchiné.
The film tells the story of two teenage boys, Damien and Thomas, who attend the same high school in a rural area of France. Despite their initial hostility towards each other, they develop a strong and complicated friendship that is tested by their personal and family issues.
The film stars Kacey Mottet Klein as Thomas and Corentin Fila as Damien, with supporting roles played by Sandrine Kiberlain and Alexis Loret.
The film was praised for its honest and nuanced portrayal of adolescence, as well as its exploration of themes such as sexuality, identity, and family.
“Being 17” received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances of the lead actors and the sensitive direction of Téchiné. The film was nominated for several awards, including the César Award for Best Supporting Actress for Sandrine Kiberlain.
18. The Neon Demon (2016)
“The Neon Demon” is a 2016 psychological horror film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. The film follows Jesse, a young aspiring model played by Elle Fanning, as she navigates the cutthroat world of the Los Angeles fashion industry.
The film also stars Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcote, and Keanu Reeves. It received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its striking visuals and bold style, while others criticized its slow pace and pretentiousness.
Despite the mixed reception, “The Neon Demon” has gained a cult following and is regarded by some as a modern horror classic. The film’s themes of beauty, youth, and obsession have resonated with audiences, and its striking cinematography and eerie score have been widely praised.
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19. Nocturnal Animals (2016)
“Nocturnal Animals” is a 2016 psychological thriller film written and directed by Tom Ford, based on the novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright.
The film tells the story of Susan Morrow (played by Amy Adams), an art gallery owner who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), who she left 20 years ago.
As Susan begins to read the manuscript, titled “Nocturnal Animals,” the film cuts to the fictional story within the manuscript, which follows a man named Tony Hastings (also played by Gyllenhaal) as he embarks on a dark and twisted journey after his family is brutally attacked while driving through Texas.
The film weaves between Susan’s present-day life and her reflections on her past with Edward, and the fictional story within the manuscript. It explores themes of regret, revenge, and the psychological impact of past traumas.
“Nocturnal Animals” was praised for its stylish direction, stunning cinematography, and strong performances from the cast, particularly Adams and Gyllenhaal.
The film was nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Michael Shannon’s performance as a detective investigating the attack on Tony’s family.
Overall, “Nocturnal Animals” is a gripping and thought-provoking film that deftly blends elements of a thriller and a character drama.
20. Sing Street (2016)
Sing Street is a 2016 musical coming-of-age film directed by John Carney. Set in Dublin in the 1980s, the film follows Conor, a young boy who starts a band in order to impress a girl he likes.
As Conor’s band, Sing Street, gains popularity, he begins to find his own identity and discovers his passion for music. Along the way, he faces challenges such as a troubled home life and a strict school environment.
The film features a cast of mostly young actors, including Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor, Lucy Boynton as Raphina, and Jack Reynor as Conor’s older brother. It also features original songs written by Carney and Gary Clark.
Sing Street received critical acclaim for its charming characters, nostalgic setting, and catchy soundtrack. It was also praised for its themes of creativity, self-discovery, and the transformative power of music. The film was a box office success, grossing over $13 million worldwide on a budget of $4 million.
Sing Street has since gained a devoted fanbase and is considered a modern classic of the coming-of-age genre. Its soundtrack, which features original songs as well as covers of 1980s hits, has also been praised and was nominated for several awards.
Best 2016 Movies – Wrap Up
The year 2016 saw a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films across various genres. Here are some of the best movies from 2016:
“La La Land” – A romantic musical comedy-drama film directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
“Moonlight” – A coming-of-age drama film directed by Barry Jenkins, following the life of a young black man growing up in Miami.
“Manchester by the Sea” – A drama film directed by Kenneth Lonergan, starring Casey Affleck as a man who must confront his past after the death of his brother.
“Hell or High Water” – A neo-western crime thriller film directed by David Mackenzie, starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster as brothers who rob banks to save their family’s farm.
“Arrival” – A science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Amy Adams as a linguist who is recruited by the government to communicate with extraterrestrial beings.
“Hacksaw Ridge” – A war drama film directed by Mel Gibson, starring Andrew Garfield as a conscientious objector who serves as a medic during World War II.
“Captain America: Civil War” – A superhero film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, starring an ensemble cast of Marvel characters.
“Zootopia” – An animated comedy film directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, set in a world of anthropomorphic animals and addressing themes of prejudice and discrimination.
“The Handmaiden” – A South Korean erotic psychological thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook, based on the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters.
“The Witch” – A supernatural horror film directed by Robert Eggers, set in colonial New England and following a Puritan family’s descent into madness.
Overall, 2016 was a strong year for cinema, with a diverse range of films across various genres receiving critical and commercial success.